Author: David Wragg
Title: The Black Hawks
Plot: Life as a knight is not what Vedren Chel imagined. Bound by oath to a dead-end job in the service of a lazy step-uncle, Chel no longer dreams of glory – he dreams of going home.
When invaders throw the kingdom into turmoil, Chel finds opportunity in the chaos: if he escorts a stranded prince to safety, Chel will be released from his oath.
All he has to do is drag the brat from one side of the country to the other, through war and wilderness, chased all the way by ruthless assassins.
With killers on your trail, you need killers watching your back. You need the Black Hawk Company – mercenaries, fighters without equal, a squabbling, scrapping pack of rogues.
Prepare to join the Black Hawks.
I received The Black Hawks from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Black Hawks’ synopsis caught my attention: reluctant hero with an impossible task surrounded by reluctant friends? Sign me up!
It wasn’t quite like that though.
More like sworn-guard unwittingly tagging along when his master is kidnapped, making a few friends on the way but never quite making it into the group. Partly due to his ineptitude – sworn-guard with no weapon? – and partly because he has an innocence that mercenaries can’t quite get their heads around.
I liked Chel as a main character. He’s stubbornly loyal, in over his head, faced with a difficult situation, and he never wavers. He’s not particularly gifted, unless being in the wrong place at the wrong time counts. Fleeing from his enemies, Chel accidentally finds himself sworn to a prince – with a price on his head and mercenaries after them.
Rennic is introduced as a scruffy beggar, but Chel soon realises there is more to him. He is gruff, unfriendly and unapproachable. I felt he stays that way throughout the entire book – it was hard to connect to him, or see any opening for any of the other characters to warm to him.
“I’m not the f***ing Shepherd, little man. The absolute power of life and death eludes me yet, despite my tireless questing.”
Prince Tarfel is best described as adorable. He’s innocent, naïve, with a too-big-heart that somehow makes you warm to him despite him being useless. I thought he would be an annoying character, but he proved me wrong. He doesn’t do anything to inspire Chel’s loyalty, but you just know he would be lost without him.
The rest of the gang are a mixture of personalities. But throughout the entire novel, I struggled to properly connect to them. They had admirably traits, and it was a fun book to read, but I didn’t feel I was emotionally invested in any of them. Considering the majority of the book is dogged with danger, that undermined it.
I have nothing against bad language when it is used correctly. With the kind of plot unfolding here, it would be wrong if the characters were politely spoken. But this went too far. The dialogue didn’t read naturally to me because of the swearing – it drew my attention, interrupted their speech and then started to annoy me because of the previous two reasons.
Despite the violence and threat of violence – other mercenaries, betrayal from within, cannibals and a deadly church – the plot was slow paced. There was a lot of travelling. This might have worked, apart from my lack of connection to the characters, so it just made it feel a little slow.
That being said, the final few chapters were tense and gripping. A fight with the odds stacked highly against them gives some of the main characters the chance to show their true colours. It would have been better if it felt like it had a conclusion rather than just an opening to the next book. Overall, this was an okay book – it was engaging enough that you kept reading and wanted to know what happened to the characters. But I wouldn’t rave about it either.